I have previously textual analysed 10 thriller films and have came to the conclusion of what are recurring themes throughout this genre.

So to start with, I noticed many similarities within the opening credits of the films, such as the following:

  • Including several Extreme Close Up shots used throughout, hinting towards the narrative of the film; for instance the extreme close up shot uncovers an eye which suggests that in the film “Skyfall” the audience will follow this character’s journey. Likewise, extreme close ups of eyes in particular are evident in the opening credits of the films including Skyfall, Red Lights, Cape Fear, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Vertigo.


  • Low key lighting is mainly used rather than High Key lighting, indicating that thriller films contain a dark element; resulting in the audience associating the themes of evilness expressed through the symbolism and representation of darkness being seen in a negative view. Perfect example is the opening credits to “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” as throughout, the metallic effect and use of Low Key lighting, creates a foreboding tone that something bad is about to happen. But this is different in “Red Lights” because although Low Key lighting starts of the opening credits, about half way through this changes to High Key Lighting, which suggests that the film will have a positive outcome compared to the other films like Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Se7en, Vertigo and  Shutter Island, where the darkness remains all the way to the end, metaphoric for the film not having a happy ending…


  • This links onto the use of shadows, as I found was a common convention to the thriller genre because many opening credits I looked at including Red lights, Skyfall, Cape Fear, Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Hostage, Se7en, Enemy Of The Sate and Shutter Island all use shadows to create a suspenseful atmosphere as the audience don’t know what to expect. For example in Red Lights, the audience are automatically introduced to the theme of evilness as flashes of shadows appear onscreen.


  • All the thriller films that I have Textually analysed, (as listed at the start) contained at one point of their opening credits some element of fire which signifies the theme of danger that will be expressed in the film. This means that thriller films will often evolve around the protagonist being in danger with the antagonist and so clues are given about this theme at the start, in the opening credits.

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  • Moreover, all 10 of the Thrillers use red imagery to express the themes and ideas of madness, desire, murder, blood, sacrifice, fire, suffering, strength, rage, hate, and love, so a range of positive but mainly negative connotations, that link to the genre of the films.


On the other hand,  I did notice that there were some differences within the 10 thriller films I done a textual analysis for such as:

  • The typography text was either coloured white (like in the credits of “Se7en” to imply the contrast against the black background, metaphoric for the opposition of good vs evil) or red (reinforcing the theme of danger etc, previously mentioned above; in the credits for Hostage).



  • The typography either flashed onscreen, evident in the opening credits of “Alien 3” where there would be constant back and forth motion of a credit over-layering a galaxy background, to the next shots that reveal hints to do with the film like how a woman is in a vulnerable position against aliens. Which occurs to make the audience experience different emotions like excitement, whilst at the same time feeling anxious, so the cuts to the credits distract the audience creating further suspense and tension. Or alternatively, the typography would fade in/out like in “Shutter Island” to add to the continuity editing exhibited in the opening credits; which the shots, mise-en-scene or sound built suspense instead.


  • The non-diegetic sound used in thriller opening title sequences include a soundtrack with powerful instruments that make strident/raucous sounds, creating a very tense atmosphere like in Red Lights, Cape Fear, Alien 3, Hostage, Se7en, Vertigo, Enemy Of The State and Shutter Island. Whereas, two of the opening credits, one being “Skyfall” and  the other film called “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” have both got theme songs; they still resulted in the audience feeling tense, as the increase in volume when there was a note being sung, made the same effect of building suspense as done in the credits for films that just had a soundtrack of instruments.

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All of which the differences are for the reason that the films are hard to classify as just a thriller film because they overlap with so many other genres that create hybrids and sub-genres. This means that because a particular film was categorised as a certain hybrid with thriller, the mise-en-scene would be different to a film that has another sub-genre/hybrid to it. For instance in the opening credits of:

  • “Red Lights”- the mise-en scene of book pages and photos give the impression that the film fits in the sub-genre of a psychological thriller because the shots exhibit characteristics of the film being about hypnosis.
  • “Skyfall”- the crime/action thriller is established through the mise-en-scene of a man in danger as he is seen as a target to the possible antagonist.
  • “Cape Fear”- Very few clues are given to do with the antagonist as he’s shown through the use of shadows representing his dark figure in the film.
  • “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”- the mise-en-scene of torture weapons like locks and chains suggest the film is in the psychological thriller sub-genre because these objects are conventions of this and mean that the antagonist is mentally disturbed in the film.
  • “Alien 3”-The clues reveal the narrative of the film being centred around aliens and the battle against them, defining it as a sci-fi thriller.
  • “Hostage”- The prison theme that runs throughout the opening credits evident through the mise-en-scene of a prison location, being established through a variety of shots, indicate the genre as a crime thriller, where there’s a potential dangerous situation/occurrence involving a criminal and a protagonist.
  • “Se7en”- also a crime thriller, but uses a different method of exhibiting this, through the mise-en-scene of self developing photos and newspapers all made to look like this is in the position of the antagonist. So instead of hinting at the antagonist, the audience are instantly introduced to them; suggestive of the antagonist being much closer to us than what the audience are made to think.
  • “Vertigo”- Sub genre of a psychological thriller is uncovered by the extreme close up shot of an eye where the audience are in a trance with the superimposition of illusions appearing; implying that this is of the possible protagonist in the film who becomes confused.
  • “Enemy of The State”- A convention of the film makes the audience categorise it as an action thriller because a car chase scene is common to this, where the protagonist is in danger/trouble, evident in the montage of criminal events displayed in the opening credits.
  • “Shutter Island”- The location of a prison being introduced, first appears to make the audience connote the film is a hybrid of crime-thriller, but isn’t as such when the opening credits develop to reveal it’s instead a psychological thriller through the way in which themes of mental instability/trouble is portrayed in the shot of a spiralling staircase that disorientates the audience whilst resembling someone who has confusement.

Furthermore, I can conclude that despite their differences, the films all relate to the battle between a protagonist and antagonist, that will be explored later in the film; demonstrating that this is a common convention of the thriller genre.